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November

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It only believes

In a pile of dead leaves

And a moon that's the color of bone

T.S. Eliot thought April was the cruelest month, but that was because he left St. Louis and moved to London where April was one of eleven months when it mostly just rains. Also, whatever time he might have spent watching the Perfectos or the Browns in his youth he had clearly forgotten, because April is the month when baseball starts up again. In England, you just get to wait for cricket season, and do they even have spring training for cricket? I think they have to wait until the weather clears in July to get the one game of cricket in before the pre-autumn drizzle, because that one game takes three weeks to play.

April is a favorite month of mine, when things turn green and baseball reappears.

November is one of my least favorite months, right up there with February; November has slightly better weather and Thanksgiving, but February is pitchers and catchers reporting time. September and October are beautiful months, also some of the best months in the calendar. Falling leaves, cool and temperate weather that is such a relief from the heat and humidity of July and August. But by the time kids finish throwing up the remainder of their Halloween candy, the world turns to crap. Worst of all, no more baseball. Four solid months of no baseball. Mostly.

 

That's why I've sought assistance from the king of all things cool, Tom Waits, to introduce the month. 

November has tied me to an old dead tree

Get word to April to rescue me

November is cold rain running down your back, because there's that little spot of bare skin on your neck between your collar and your hat. November is a puddle of slush lurking at the edge of the curb, waiting to flood the shoe of the pedestrian stepping carelessly from the sidewalk. November is freezing rain. November is driving to work in the dark and driving home in the dark and wondering if the sun actually rose and set in the interim, or if the sun was just too depressed today and stayed in bed like you wish you had. Unless of course you live in one of those unnatural places where "winter" is the season when the temperature doesn't get above 75 degrees at midday. You are spoiling a good gloom with your suntans and your cheery smiles. 

So if you want to love me

Darlin don't refrain 

Or I'll just end up walkin, in the cold Nov . . .

All right, who let Axl Rose in my post? That is the wrong November song. Axl, don't you have a fifteen-year album project to work on? Better get that started and leave my thread alone.

For baseball fans, November is a particularly painful moment at which the trade and free agent markets are just too open, too uncertain. Too much can happen. Write all the paeans to Carl Crawford you like, you may find out tomorrow that the Rays picked up his option and the Cards never had a chance. December - yeah, December, the market has started to put itself together. GM meetings and the Rule V draft early in the month. A few names start signing. January, the market starts to fall in line and lots of signings take place. In November -- you know nothing. November is the awful uncertainty about everything except FOUR MORE MONTHS without baseball.

No prayers for November to linger longer

You know what you get in November? Jason LaRue. Jason LaRue is going to be offered a contract in November. Or not - which means that in 2010 we get to watch Matt Pagnozzi ground out weakly every 5 to 7 days while not looking like he has come to fix some young woman's 1970's-era cable box. The only thing worse than signing Jason LaRue in November is NOT signing Jason LaRue in November.

The month began with a drama-free World Series, which ended in a Yankees victory.

This off-season doesn't really even look like much fun. In a couple weeks we're going to find out if Matt Holliday truly appreciates fruit-filled pastry or was just stringing us along (signs point to "stringing us along"). If he doesn't sign then we probably look forward to a quiet offseason of signing a fixer-upper of a starting pitcher and either signing Mike Cameron (SIGN MIKE CAMERON), some aging half-bat who can't field, or some cheap non-entity to play LF. We really have nothing in the way of major trade chips right now, so we can't look into any exciting trades. 

I am going to more throw out some names and such that may be or may not be worth keeping eyes on.

The Nats (team of 1,000 outfielders) declined the option on Austin Kearns. Kearns had a very rough year turning in a .298 wOBA and a slash line of .195/.336/.305. Actually, two rough years - since he had a weak 2008 too. Weird, weird line both years, though. He managed a fine 15.5% walk rate (and that .336 OBP would look nice on this team if the rest of the line wouldn't). Behind the BB rate are even more impressive discipline levels - he swung at only 18% of pitches out of the zone UP from 15% last season. His BABIP over the last couple years: .258 and .251, yet his LD% was a solid 18.7% and 21.1%. He injured his thumb in the middle of the season on a HBP, which may also explain some of his funk. You can't blame the nats for not wanting to pay $10M for that.

Is it possible to have two solid season of just wicked batted ball luck?  I don't see why not - he had about a seasons worth of PA's over the two seasons. He managed a career 9.8 UZR/150 in RF, so he's no slouch in the field. He comes with his own history of character issues, too. I imagine my level of interest would depend on cost. I don't think I'd say I'm stumping for him, but if we could pick him up for a reclamation project piece, he's got good tools to build upon. You wouldn't have to see much of a BABIP rebound to get that OBP into a very nice place. In the race of replacement value OF, I'd say he clearly has a better ceiling than, say, a Rick Ankiel with poor plate discipline but more power. I wouldn't want him as our sole option in LF, but if we had him and Allen Craig and maybe another decent LF option -- something is going to stick to the wall.

This JJ Hardy story continues to intrigue me in a "what were they thinking?" sense. fourstick said they traded JJ Hardy -- one of the best defensive SS in the business -- for basically Jon Jay. I agree with that comp. Elsewhere I saw commenters wondering why JJ hadn't ended up in Boston, rich in starting pitching and needy in the SS position. MLB Trade Rumors has an answer of sorts - that the Brewers demanded either Clay Buchholz or Daniel Bard and wouldn't budge. The notion that you would stick to a demand for two of the top prospects around and then settle with another team for a replacement value player is completely bizarre. It's like going to Tony's with a $20 bill, demanding the duck, and when they refuse to sell you a $40 duck entree for $20, spending the whole thing on a day old loaf of bread.

Detroit seems to be putting Placido Polanco on the free agent market. I could be more excited if he weren't Type A.

Matt Leach is on the Cameron bandwagon. Elsewhere talk of Dye. Oh please no.

Bah. This is what November gives you. Wisps and teases and ultimately heartbreak.

 

November seems odd

You're my firing squad

November*

 

* FYI, I wrote most of this earlier this week. Now I see online it's going to be 72 degrees in St. Louis tomorrow. Don't worry. It's just November playing a trick on you, softening you up. Enjoy it, you bastards.